Well, here's a fun surprise - apparently, Marvel's working up their own pseudo-Birds of Prey with Fearless Defenders, a book from writer Cullen Bun and artist Will Sliney debuting in February. This is good news for those who have criticized Marvel for not being able to sustain female-led books - up until this point, Captain Marvel was their only one.
This will be an all-female team series, but it will not be a fully-formed squad at the outset, or even after the first arc. It's based around the idea that Valkyrie has to recruit a new crew of shieldmaidens - Valkyrior - from the women of Midgard - or, at least, she was supposed to. But she hasn't, and that causes a big problem that she has to find a way to fix. The first person to come on board will be Misty Knight, who was most recently seen in Heroes for Hire (and, subsequently, Villains For Hire).
"They're our co-leads," Bunn says, "and the rest of the team will build around them. I think it'll be interesting to see how the two of them see things differently. You've got Misty, who's a very street-level character. And you've got Valkyrie, who's a goddess. So you've got very different backgrounds, and I think they will see their potential teammates very differently, and I think you'll see that the two of them have some differences of opinion on who would be the right team for what they're going to be facing."
Bunn also says the future members of the team will not necessarily be the most famous characters in the Marvel pantheon - he's making this a showcase for female characters big and small, and it happens to sound an awful lot like the Heroes For Hire concept of rotating cast members. Bunn says it honors the Defenders tradition by not being what you expect of a team book.
"I'm not a writer who's going to sit back and say, 'I want to write a good all-female team,'" he explains. "I just want to write a good team, and approach them as real people, and build some personality into some of these characters, and try to develop a fanbase for a lot of these characters who, in some cases, people may not have been exposed to at all yet. I think there are a lot of great female characters in the Marvel Universe who have not been given the chance they need, because maybe they can't support a book all on their own, or maybe they've been on a team and they've been kind of lost in the shuffle for, in some cases, many, many, many years. This is my opportunity to put them all together, and to give them the spotlight."
"This is an idea that I came up with when I was working on Fear Itself: The Fearless," he reveals. "I was probably writing the sixth issue or so when this dawned on me. I came up with the idea that Valkyrie might have to replace the Valkyrior with women from the Marvel Universe, and when that idea dawned on me, I did not approach it as, 'This is my opportunity to tell a story with an all-female team.' I approached it as, 'This is a great opportunity to tell some really cool stories, some things that I think would be exciting.'"
Bunn was tight-lipped about who is going to be on the team, because he wants to get that guessing-game going with the fans, but he did say the third member will be Dani Moonstar of the New Mutants.
"She's an awesome character. She has a fanbase. There are a lot of people who really like Dani Moonstar — I'm one of them," Bunn says. "Even better, she has such a connection to the Valkyrie. She was on the top of my list when I started putting together who I thought would be the core roster. I think she also represents what I'm talking about — she has a fanbase, she gets a lot of attention in New Mutants, but New Mutants just came to an end. I think she's a character who deserves some time in the spotlight, and this will be a different capacity for her as a character. I think you'll see Dani in a different light, and for so many reasons, she's a character who deserves that moment to shine."
Perhaps ominously, he adds "I have an endgame in mind with Dani that will change her character to some degree, and it will define her for the future in a different way."
As far as villains go, though, he's creating the initial threat from scratch. "In the first issue, I'm introducing a couple of new villains. One of them is, in my mind, the nastiest villain to ever come into the Marvel Universe. She is absolutely ghastly. At her very core, she is a horrible, horrible person, and she is capable of some really deplorable things that we'll be seeing."
So, hey, this is pretty awesome! I'm definitely on board to check this one out - how about you? Who else do you want on this team? Big Bertha? Squirrel Girl? Colleen Wing? Wasp? Tigra? Hazmat? Julie Power? Finesse? Black Widow? Captain Marvel herself? X-23? Throw out your suggestions!